A Look Back At 2006

Another year is in the books and it definitely had its share of important news.

The biggest story of 2006 has to be the purchase and absorption of House of Blues Entertainment into concert industry giant Live Nation. After years of on-again, off-again courtship, the HoB board finally saw a number it and its investment bankers could accept.

Live Nation now operates amphitheatres in virtually every major market in the U.S. and can launch a national shed tour without needing to cross party lines. It also gains HoB’s dominating presence in Canada. The biggest prize, however, may be the acquisition of the trademark HoB clubs, which are consistently among the most popular in the country. As the year came to a close, staffing at HoB and Live Nation’s offices was being trimmed and consolidated as the two giants meld into one.

It’s now the world of the Big Two: Live Nation and AEG Live. And the house of Anschutz can hardly be described as sitting on its hands in 2006. The company expanded its venue network with more soccer-specific stadiums and expects to open the new Sprint Center in Kansas City and the new L.A. Live development next to the Staples Center in 2007. AEG will also expand its overseas venue network with the opening of the giant O2 dome in London.

The few big moves in the booking agency world were led by the relatively quiet emergence of Paradigm as a major full service agency. Paradigm, a film, television and literary agency, already had a controlling interest in Monterey Peninsula Artists when it negotiated a deal with Marty Diamond to acquire Little Big Man Booking in August. It’s not official yet, but look for both Monterey and Little Big Man to formally change their names to Paradigm in the new year.

And speaking of new players, it’s definitely worth noting that 2006 was Live Nation’s rookie year as a free-standing company. Skillfully helmed by Michael Rapino, LYV stock, which was introduced in December 2005 at $11 per share, saw its value double and as 2007 approached, stock analysts were predicting it would climb to $27-29 in the near term.

Live Nation bought a controlling interest in Michael Cohl’s CPI in 2006. With enormous tours by the Rolling Stones, Barbra Streisand, and The Who, Cohl and CPI brought plenty to the table for LYV. The company also bought artist and fan club portal MusicToday from Coran Capshaw as the company looked to grow its Internet presence. And in Europe, the end of year purchases of France’s Jackie Lombard Productions and Spain’s Gamerco filled in two of the larger gaps in Live Nation’s global presence.

The big story ahead for Live Nation will be the negotiation of new contracts for its food & beverage services currently serviced by Aramark and ticketing services now handled by Ticketmaster. Those deals expire in 2008 and Live Nation will either drive a deal for better terms or will go into the ticketing and/or F&B business for itself.

This year, instead of renewing its TM contracts, Global Spectrum launched its own Paciolan-based ticketing service called ComcasTix at its flagship Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, officials at Chicago’s new Sears Centre are considering building more facilities and taking their in-house ticketing system with them. And operating in super stealth mode, the largest indie promoter left in America, Jam Productions, made a deal to build its own shed and share parking facilities with the Sears Centre.

Ticketmaster announced it will be expanding into China in time for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, building at least 800 outlets in what the company says will be a permanent presence in the world’s most populous country.

announced it will be expanding into China in time for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, building at least 800 outlets in what the company says will be a permanent presence in the world’s most populous country.

Ticketmaster also launched a new program called TicketExchange, which is being designated as the "exclusive" portal for tickets on the secondary market at scores of venues also holding TM contracts for primary ticketing. StubHub, eBay, and a host of other Internet sites continue to generate enormous revenues in the secondary ticketing marketplace and none of that money goes to the artists or teams named on the ticket. It’s not a stretch to foresee a lawsuit coming to try and enforce TM’s exclusive "contractual legal rights" to both primary and secondary market tickets.

Survivors and the families of victims of The Station nightclub fire may have received the closest thing to "closure" this year, although many have voiced disappointment in the outcome. The only three people held accountable for the deadly West Warwick, R.I., blaze – Great White’s former tour manager and the two club owners – went in front of a judge this year.

The tour manager, Dan Biechele, pleaded guilty to 100 counts of manslaughter and received four years in prison. Station co-owner Michael Derderian received four years by pleading guilty and his brother, Jeffrey, was given community service. So far neither the fire marshal who deemed the club safe to occupy nor the band itself have faced any serious punishment.

As for the Irving Azoffs of the world – well, as for Irving Azoff – he and partner Howard Kaufman expanded Front Line Management. Azoff formed a strategic alliance first with manager Simon Renshaw, then with managers Andy Gould and Dan Dalton, andwrapping the year with a deal with managers Brian Doyle and Rob Kos in New York City.

Azoff also orchestrated a landmark strategic alliance between the Eagles and Wal-Mart that totally bypasses the major record companies. Artists that own their own music can now make viable retail deals involving video and audio releases, sponsorships and product visibility directly with large retailers.

Word on the street was Sanctuary Music Management CEO Merck Mercuriadis was going to align himself with Front Line. Instead, Mercuriadis left Sanctuary, and toured with his client Guns N’ Roses until the remainder of the tour was canceled December 15th and Axl Rose announced he was parting ways with Mercuriadis.

Sanctuary had plenty of other news this year. Emma Banks and Mike Greek left Sanctuary’s London-based agency, Helter Skelter, and formed a U.K. office for CAA. William Morris Agency is also in the process of rolling out its new London office as the existing U.K. agencies look on warily at the American interlopers.